Thursday Playoff Report
THE NBA PLAYOFFS REPORT
WILL WE GET A GAME #7 (OR MAYBE TWO OR THREE OF 'EM) IN THIS OPENING ROUND AS THE BULLS, HAWKS & NUGGETS LOOK TO STAY ALIVE
By Jim Hurley:
So, what is tonight's NBA Playoffs trifecta gonna bring us ... will all three of these "elimination games" in Philadelphia, Boston and Denver instead turn into stayin' alive games for the teams down three games-to-two?
Hey, it could happen.
The Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets each face the end of their 2011-12 seasons this evening but nobody's counting them out just yet and keep in mind we usually get one or two Game #7s in this opening round of the NBA Playoffs and something's telling us we're gonna get at least one Game #7 from this mini-batch of post-season games tonight.
The Game #6 previews are straight ahead in today's edition of Jim Sez -plus note we've charted out the entire series with the game-by-game pointspread winners/losers -and so let's get rockin' on one of the best NBA Playoff nights (maybe the best!) this spring:
#1 CHICAGO at #8 PHILADELPHIA -76ers lead series 3-2
Game #6 at 7:05 p.m. ET
The benchmark of these Tom Thibodeau-coached Chicago Bulls teams is stingy defense and playing without the likes of PG Derrick Rose (gone for the post-season, of course) and C Joakim Noah (questionable for Game #6 here) the Chitowners played stellar "D" in Tuesday's 77-69 win/cover against Philly:
The Sixers drained just 25-of-78 FG attempts (that's a lowly 32 percent) and never did get very comfortable while playing a grind-it-out half-court game but now the $64,000 question is can the Bulls force Philadelphia to play the same style game here (maybe without all the eye-gouging and face-scratching that took place in Game #5)?
Expect one big key here to be whether the Bulls elect to take it to the rim more as Tuesday's win featured only 11 Chicago free throws (and only four made FTs) and so Luol Deng (24 points in Game #5) and mates might eschew some wing jumpers to go hard at the hoop and try to get to the foul line more often.
Remember Philly had 11 blocked shots in Game #5 and so we could have a major test of wills in the paint here.
Here's how the Bulls-76ers series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):
|4-28||CHICAGO||- 9||Philadelphia||CHICAGO 103-91|
|5-1||CHICAGO||- 7||Philadelphia||Philadelphia 109-92|
|5-4||Chicago||- 1||PHILADELPHIA||PHILADELPHIA 79-74|
|5-6||PHILADELPHIA||- 3||Chicago||PHILADELPHIA 89-82|
|5-8||CHICAGO||- 5.5||Philadelphia||CHICAGO 77-69|
Spread Note: Home Teams have covered four of the first five games in this Bulls-Sixers best-of-seven series.
#5 ATLANTA at #4 BOSTON -Celtics lead series 3-2
Game #6 at 8:05 p.m. ET
Let's just say there was a definite pep-to-the-step of the Atlanta Hawks in Game #5 as the return to the starting lineup of C Al Horford (19 points and 11 rebs plus 3 steals and 3 blocks) made all the difference in the world but gotta wonder here if the big guy who missed four months of action with a pectoral muscle injury has the stamina to play another 41 minutes here?
Horford scored two late-game key buckets for the Hawks who sorely missed his inside presence in the earlier portion of the series and gotta say that the C's do need Paul Pierce (16 points in Game #5) to get over his nagging injuries to give Doc Rivers' squad 40-plus minutes here ... does Boston really have total trust in G Ray Allen to make a last-second jumper (note 2-of-4 triple tries in Game #5) after all that recent missed game action with a bum ankle?
P.S., keep your eye out here to see if Atlanta gets anything -and we mean anything -from its bench that produced a mere 9 points and 5 boards last time out.
Here's how the Hawks-Celtics series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):
|4-29||ATLANTA||- 1||Boston||ATLANTA 83-74|
|5-1||ATLANTA||- 4.5||Boston||Boston 87-80|
|5-4||BOSTON||- 8||Atlanta||BOSTON 90-84(ot)|
|5-6||BOSTON||- 6||Atlanta||BOSTON 101-79|
|5-8||ATLANTA||- 2||Boston||ATLANTA 87-86|
Spread Note: The underdog sides have the 3-2 advantage so far in this Hawks-Celtics series.
#3 LOS ANGELES LAKERS at #6 DENVER -Lakers lead series 3-2
Game #6 at 10:35 p.m. ET
How do you choose to eyeball this best-of-seven set?
Are the Lakers showing some chinks in the armor after failing to put away Denver in Tuesday's super-scary 102-99 loss or was that simply the Nuggets' "one shining moment" in this series?
True, Denver's worry that nobody takes charge for 'em late was disproved as veteran G Andre Miller (24 points and 8 assists with just one turnover) enjoyed a spectacular fourth quarter in Game #5 -those two three-quarter court alley-oop passes to JaVale McGee (21 points and 14 rebounds in 33 minutes in Game #5) were Magic Johnson-like ... wouldn't you say?
The Lakers came from nowheresville to almost win Game #5 as Kobe Bryant (43 points) reigned down triple-after-triple but fellow champ Pau Gasol was downright invisible the other night (just 9 points and truly silent after taking a shot to the face) and role players Matt Barnes and Ramon Sessions (a combined 8-of-26 from the floor) were absolutely horrid. Hey, why does Lakers head coach Mike Brown even give Barnes any minutes at all?
If the Lakers put all their eggs in the Bryant basket here than they could be running on fumes late in this Mile High City affair -- and that's precisely what Nuggets boss-man George Karl has been banking on all series long!
Here's how the Lakers-Nuggets series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):
|4-29||LA LAKERS||- 5||Denver||LA LAKERS 103-88|
|5-1||LA LAKERS||- 5.5||Denver||LA LAKERS 104-100|
|5-4||DENVER||- 3.5||LA Lakers||DENVER 99-84|
|5-6||DENVER||- 2||LA Lakers||LA Lakers 92-88|
|5-8||LA LAKERS||- 5.5||Denver||Denver 102-99|
Spread Note: The road teams have covered three of the four games played since the Lakers' resounding Game #1 win/cover at the Staples Center.
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